What is aided language input?
Aided language input, which goes by many names including aided language stimulation and partner augmented input, is when a communication partner uses an AAC system to speak to the AAC user, while simultaneously verbally saying the message.
Why Is Aided Language Input important?
Think about how long we speak to children, providing ongoing input, before we expect them to speak. AAC is no different. If a child is to learn AAC, we need to speak AAC. This gives children the opportunity to learn symbols, the meaning of symbols and words, the association between symbols and the words they represent, how to use aided language to express a variety of communicative functions, how to combine symbols to create increasingly complex messages, it makes language visual, how to use grammar, how to use language for social interactions. The list goes on.
How Do I Provide Aided Language Input?
Model key words, phrases and sentences on the AAC system, through activating icons as you verbally produce a sentence. When children are just beginning to use AAC, you may start by modeling on the key word in the sentence you speak. For example, when commenting on a child's pretend play, you may verbally say, "The baby is SAD, she is crying," activating SAD on the AAC system as you speak. As you and your child begin to use the AAC system more, you may model several words in a phrase or sentence. For example, within the above sentence, you may model 2-3 words, as in "The baby is SAD. SHE is CRYing." As with verbal language, you always want to model 1-2 words above what a child is producing.
Model what your child might be saying, based on the child's body language, vocalizations, facial expressions. For example, if your child throws the cup on the floor, say something like, "you threw your cup. I think you are ALL DONE." Remember to tell your child what s/he did to make you think that is what s/he is communicating, so they can make the connection between their unaided communication and the aided communication you are modeling.
A word of caution: it is easy to get in the habit of using the device to tell your child what the schedule may be (i.e. it's time to sleep," or to give directions (i.e. go get your shoes."). It is important to teach your child how to say things the child may want to say, which is typically not schedule or direction related. For example, you may say "The playground is FUN. Let's GO!," and then give the direction to go get the shoes.
There are many reasons to communicate and therefore many reasons to model. Model to express opinions, ask questions, protest, refuse, tell jokes, share information, re-tell past events.
Try an model an 80/20% ratio of comments to questions. And remember....there is no such thing as too young to begin using, and modeling, AAC. We don't limit the words we speak to children when they are born, or in the infant ages because of their age, and AAC should be no different!
But my child won't attend to modeling!
We definitely want to have a child's attention when we provide aided language input. It is important to remember that even if a child does not appear to be attending, they may be using peripheral vision to attend, and/or they may be auditorily attending. There are several strategies that can be used to help a child attend to communication partners modeling on an AAC system. These strategies can be used on low tech paper based systems as well as using high tech systems.
Put a finger puppet on your modeling finger to draw attention to the target
Use a laser pointer light to shine on target words
Paint the nail that you use to model with, using a color that draws your child's attention
Use a red pipe cleaner to highlight the words you are modeling.